Sexual predators often make their first contact with young people on the streets, outside schools, at cinemas, in bus or train stations.
Sometimes they will use one child to contact others. They will buy gifts, take the children out and make them promises.
Children could be persuaded to truant from school, and they become secretive, perhaps returning home late and spending increasingly shorter times with their family. They could be given alcohol and drugs.
The friendliness will then turn to requests for sexual favours in payment for gifts. Children can become alienated from their family, friends and teachers. They may be scared for their own and their family's safety.
How to spot the warning signs
Has your child had a sudden change in behaviour? Perhaps they’re associating with increasingly older men and disappearing for large amounts of time? Are they increasingly on their smartphones or on the computer, and are being secretive about it?
Children are groomed in different ways. It may be difficult for parents and carers to differentiate between ordinary teenage rebellion and the risk of sexual exploitation but below are some of the signs that may signify if children are being groomed.
• Not mixing with their usual friends.
• Associating with older men.
• Developing relationship of a sexual nature with a significantly older man or a woman.
• Being hostile or physically aggressive in their relationship with parents/carers and other family members.
• Being defensive about where they have been and what they've been doing.
• Appearing drunk or under the influence of drugs.
• Truanting school or having problems with school.
• Looking tired or ill, sleeping during the day.
• Having increasing health-related problems.
• Staying out at nights.
• Going missing.
• Sudden and considerable change in performance at school or in hobbies.
• Changing use of language.
• Getting involved in petty crime.
• Volatile behaviour.
• Becoming disruptive or using abusive language.
• Exhibiting self harming behaviour or suicidal tendencies.
• Being pregnant or suffering from Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
• Having money, mobile phones, clothes, jewellery or other items not given by parents/carers.
• Receiving more phone calls or text messages than usual.
• Changing physical appearance - new clothes, more make-up.
• Having marks or scars on their body which they try to conceal by refusing to undress or uncover parts of their body.
• Returning home after long intervals but appearing to be well cared for.
Who can help?
Locally help and advice can be provided by:
States of Jersey Police – 612612
National Helplines are also available:
NSPCC 0808 800 5000
Child Line 0800 1111
Pace (Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation) is the leading charity for parents and carers whose children are sexually exploited. Pace has produced Keep them Safe – an online information package for parents on the signs of child sexual exploitation. The free tool is designed to equip parents with the information and knowledge to safeguard children from this abuse.